How to Negotiate If Your Landlord Raises Rent

rent increase

Finding a rental that you love to live in is a great thing. Finding a rental that you love to live and then having your landlord hike your rent though? Not so much. There are lots of reasons why a landlord may choose to impose a rent increase, including adapting to market or neighborhood trends or upping the rent to cover things like unit improvements, maintenance needs, or property tax increases. As a tenant though, it can be tough to hear that your rent is going to go up—and in some cases, tough to come up with the additional monthly cost.

36 percent of all Americans live in rental properties, according to reporting from iProperty Management, and since 2010, the average cost of those rentals has increased 31%. If you’re making minimum wage, you’d have to work 127 hours a week to afford an apartment in many major cities, not to mention the responsibility of covering the cost of utilities, renter’s insurance, and other essentials (you know, like food). And if you’re already stretched thin, a rent increase could easily price you out of your home.

So there’s good news and bad news here. Let’s start with the bad news, which is that rent increases are pretty common, especially in high-demand cities. The good news, though? In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the increase and keep your rent stable for another lease term—or at least minimize the amount of the bump.

Below, we’ve outlined a bit about what you should know about rent increases, including some tips for negotiating and (possibly) reducing the added burden.

Wait, is a Rent Increase Legal?

Yes, rent increases are legal in most cases. Landlords and property management companies are allowed to charge whatever the market allows for a rental unit, and in most states, there is no limit to the amount that your rent can be increased.

There is however an important caveat here, which is that your landlord can’t just raise your rent whenever they feel like it. For instance, you can’t get a rent increase during the course of your lease term. If you’re on a month-to-month lease though, or if your lease is up and you’re re-upping it for another term, your landlord can increase the amount that they’re charging for rent.

Important to note is that many states do have laws around how much notice must be given. Search your state name plus “rent increase notice” to find out how many days in advance your landlord must notify you before hiking up the rent for the next term.

Tips for Negotiating a Rent Increase

The golden rule is that you don’t want to be spending more than 30% of your post-tax income on housing. Many renters however are paying more than that, or are cutting it close enough that an increase in their monthly rent cost isn’t tenable on their current income.

If you’re facing a rent increase and you either can’t afford the additional cost or it’s going to take too large of a chunk out of your income, you do have some steps that you can take to try and negotiate. Keep in mind that so long as the increase is happening legally your landlord is under no obligation to budge on their decision. But if you have a positive relationship with them and you’ve been a good tenant, you might have leverage to either reduce the increase or stop it entirely. Here’s what to do.

  1. Start with some research

    Is the increase that your landlord is proposing out of line with rents in your area? Despite there often being a lack of caps on how high a rent increase can go, it still stands to reason that you should never be expected to pay way more than market conditions dictate just to get the same thing in return.

    Look up other apartments for rent in your immediate neighborhood. Is the increased rent in line with what others are charging for similar properties and amenities? Alternately, is it so overpriced that your landlord is unlikely to find another tenant who’s willing to pay the inflated fee? If either of those things are true, it’s possible that you’ll have some more leeway in your negotiations.

  2. Talk to your landlord

    A good rule of thumb anytime that you’re facing a disagreement with your landlord is to open up the lines of communication—and stay calm and respectful while you do so. Again, a history of being a good tenant in your current unit is valuable currency, since your landlord may decide that it’s worth nixing or lowering the rent increase in order to keep you around.

    Be ready to give concrete examples of what you bring to the table as a tenant so that you can show your landlord what they stand to lose—for example, if you’re non-disruptive, always pay your rent on time, and have kept the unit in great condition, use those things as arguments in your favor.

    Finding a new tenant can be costly, and it’s a toss-up as to whether they’ll be equally responsible. If you present your case to your landlord in an appropriate manner, there’s always a chance that they’ll decide it’s worth it to forgo the increase for now if it means keeping you around.

  3. Write a hardship letter

    Another option aside from talking to your landlord directly is to write them a hardship letter, which is essentially a letter that explains both your current financial situation and the burden that the rent increase will put on you. Just as you would if you were having this conversation in person, follow up your explanation with why you think your landlord should keep the rent as is, including why you’re a tenant worth keeping around.

    Putting this information into writing is important, since in addition to leaving a paper trail of your conversation it also gives your landlord some time to think about your request instead of having to offer a quick and direct response.

  4. Ask for a compromise

    If you’re going to ask for something, you may as well offer something in return. If you can, offer to sign a longer term fixed-rate lease in exchange for the rent staying at its current rate. A long-term lease (think two years or more) offers a lot of benefits to landlords, since it offers the reliability that comes with continued tenancy. And if you’re planning to stay put for a while anyway—and you like your apartment—there’s no reason to stick to a shorter lease.

What if Your Negotiations Fail?

It’s an unfortunate fact of renting that you don’t always have as much power as you’d wish over your living situation. Taking the steps above to try and negotiate a rent increase can have a great outcome, but they can also lead you nowhere.

You should never be paying more in rent than you can afford, even if it means that you have to move out of an apartment you’re really fond if. So if a rent increase prices you out of your unit and your negotiations fail, it’s time to go apartment hunting. Keep in mind these 10 things you should consider when looking for a new apartment, and check out our tips for finding short-term housing if you can’t find exactly what you want right away.